Give it two years, and the St. Helens Lions will be in the playoffs.
The St. Helens Lions have fallen on some hard times on the football field. Nagging injuries, combined with the loss of Brennan Norton would make it seem as though the season is lost for a team that came into the year with so much promise.
But when the Lions travel to face the Kingsmen of Rex Putnam High School on Friday evening, there's a chance to prove the gritty team from St. Helens isn't finished.
Last week against Sandy was the coming out party for freshman running back Myles Terry, and though the team lost to the Pioneers 31-18, they made a furious comeback in the second half. Scrap, which has become a motivational acronym for the Lions, is also their staple on the football field.
It takes scrap (and bananas) to pull out a victory in five overtimes. That was the first mention of the unofficial team motto from head coach Jared Phillips, and in the midst of a worn-down group of underdogs came a light: we're ready to shed this losing mantle.
The following week saw the Lions step up to the plate against one of the best in Class 5A. The Wildcats of Wilsonville came to visit St. Helens, and to most in the audience, the Lions didn't stand a chance. After all, it was Wilsonville. They stomped all over the Lions 64-21 last year, why should it be any different this time around? Scrap.
Scrap and defense. This time there was a chance. At the end of the game, the Lions were in striking distance before a desperate pass got picked off, but St. Helens had proven itself once again.
That's great. Two games, a win and a narrow loss. But they surely can't keep that up, can they?
Then St. Helens faced Liberty and lost a heartbreaker. Instead of being happy with the good game and close result, players were frustrated that a mistake here or there cost them a big win. That change in mindset is a victory right there. Being close isn't good enough.
It's a little early to say the Lions are back. They turned around and cowered in front of advancing Sherwood, and it's unlikely the Lions will make the post-season, but the wheels are rolling in the right direction.
Success breeds success. Now, the players know it's possible to make noise in the powerful Northwest Oregon Conference, and it's not acceptable to win a game here and there, and call it good. A loss isn't surrounded with an oh well, we didn't have a chance anyway.
These players believe in one another, and what's more, they believe in themselves. The freshmen step up. Rumors from the jayvee teams are the Lions have solid talent on it's way up. The team scraps and fights under Phillips' direction, and that's an excellent sign.
They may not be back, but believe you me, they will be.